The Greatest Showman: Bryson Prevails At Pinehurst
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The Greatest Showman: Bryson Prevails At Pinehurst

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The Greatest Showman: Bryson Prevails At Pinehurst

He has been a tinkerer, savant, enigma, star, agent of change, pariah, ambassador, influencer and, now, inexorably, Bryson DeChambeau is a two-time United States Open champion. Less than a decade into his professional career, DeChambeau has produced the most unlikely in a series of reinventions: jovial fan favorite who is shaping the game in his own image. He didn’t just win the 124th U.S. Open, he overwhelmed it with a persona as outsized as his drives. The fist-pumping, mean-mugging, baby-kissing DeChambeau did the unthinkable, stealing the crowd from perennial fan favorite Rory McIlroy.

With his vaunted driver misbehaving during a taut final round, DeChambeau, 30, tamed fearsome Pinehurst No. 2 with his too-long wedges and weird putting stance and things that can’t be measured on a Trackman—heart, guts, cojones. The game’s king of content is engaging a new generation of fans while taking his place alongside the all-time greats – the World Golf Hall of Fame recently moved to Pinehurst and DeChambeau might as well have walked across the street after the trophy ceremony to claim his locker. He now has two U.S. Opens, a U.S. Amateur and NCAA championship, nine PGA Tour and two LIV Golf wins (insert winking emoji), to say nothing of 705K YouTube subscribers. Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods are the only other players to have won a U.S. Amateur and multiple U.S. Opens.

On Sunday, with huge crowds in a frenzy and Pinehurst teetering on the edge and the entire sports world mesmerized by a thrilling duel between two of the game’s biggest personalities, DeChambeau looked like he was actually having fun. He plays with a newfound lightness of being that allowed him to shake off a missed four-footer on the 15th hole, a gaffe that could have crushed a lesser man.

Indeed, McIlroy played far superior golf to DeChambeau for most of the final round. When Rory birdied the 13th hole, he was two clear of the field and four-under on the day. Over his last decade of vexing futility in the major championships, McIlroy has often been shaky with the putter in crunch time but, to that point, he was pouring in 25-footers like it was his birthright. On the 16th hole, still nursing a one-shot lead, he missed a 30-inch putt—until then, he was 496-for-496 inside of three feet this season—and something broke loose inside of McIlroy. He made a series of nervous swings coming home and then, on the final green, his putter turned into an anvil as he bricked a 3-foot-9-inch putt for par. That will take its place among the most ignominious short misses in golf history, alongside the screwups of Doug Sanders (Old Course), Scott Hoch (Augusta), Davis Love (Oakland Hills), Stewart Cink (Southern Hills) and Dustin Johnson (Chambers Bay).

Hard on the heels of McIlroy’s bogey, DeChambeau went from the native area to a bunker 55 yards short of a back flag but produced what he called “the shot of my life,” leaving just under four feet for glory.

Unlike McIlroy, he met the moment.

So now the golf world must reckon with the fact that DeChambeau is its biggest star and potentially most dominant force. He was one of the behind-the-scenes founders of LIV Golf and thus he and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler have played in the same tournament only three times this year; DeChambeau has beaten him twice, including his runner-up finish at last month’s PGA Championship. “I have no doubt that Bryson is the best player in the world,” says Charles Howell III, admittedly a little biased as one of DeChambeau’s teammates on LIV Golf.

Dechambeau celebrating a team title at LIV Hong Kong with Paul Casey (left), Charles Howell III and Anirban Lahiri (Photo by Montana Pritchard/LIV Golf)

In America, there are few things more powerful than winning and DeChambeau’s victory completes a remarkable redemptive arc. Money helped lure every player to LIV but DeChambeau, a nonconformist and a contrarian, also hungered for a fresh start after feeling estranged from his peers on the PGA Tour. “A lot of my time out there was difficult,” he told me. “I was trying to get on the [Player Advisory Committee] for six years and it never happened. You get voted onto it by the other players and nobody liked the way I thought. I felt I had an interesting perspective on a lot of issues. I’d love to have been part of it but they didn’t want me.”

As one of LIV’s key signees, he took plenty of abuse on social media and in the press but no one has been happier on the renegade tour. DeChambeau was given a team to captain and the cohesive atmosphere he worked so hard to create led to the Crushers winning LIV’s team title in 2023. “The PGA Tour is by definition a lonely place,” says Howell. “On LIV, Bryson found a family. Now he has a support system and we’ve been there to help him grow and mature. We’ve all watched him become more comfortable in his skin.”

DeChambeau’s sunny attitude was helped greatly by a return to good health after a broken hand and the subsequent rebuilding of his golf swing. “I dug myself out of a pretty deep hole,” he says. With his restless mind, DeChambeau has been eager to pick the brains of his veteran teammates, including Paul Casey and Anirban Lahiri. “They’re wise individuals—a lot wiser than me. They’ve taught me how to play certain shots, how to think through certain situations, little tricks on the greens. Nuances I never knew about.” At LIV Hong Kong, in March, DeChambeau found Howell in the practice area and confided that he was unhappy with his bunker play. They spent the next hour and a half working side by side, including on awkward 50-yarders that were pretty much the exact shot DeChambeau conquered on the 72nd hole at Pinehurst.

DeChambeau has also been buoyed by his embrace of social media, particularly his fun-loving videos on YouTube, where he has displayed a winning goofiness and ability to laugh at himself. DeChambeau’s videos (such as when he tries to break 50 from the forward tees) have attracted such a wide audience that Taylor Swift’s boyfriend Travis Kelce recently rang about making content together. Bryson blurred the line between competition and entertainment even at the august U.S. Open, shamelessly playing to the crowd. He used the roars like rocket fuel during his Saturday 67, during which he bullied young phenom Ludvig Åberg off the tee. DeChambeau took a three-shot lead that gave him a crucial cushion. He credited his showmanship at Pinehurst to having learned to be himself on camera. “For whatever reason, YouTube just brought it all out of me,” he says.

The pyrotechnics of Saturday and craftiness on Sunday were a testament to DeChambeau’s range. Across four days at the U.S. Open, he gained more strokes with his putting than his driving. “When Bryson first came out on Tour, he was not a very good putter and he will tell you that,” says Howell. “The fact that he has been able to transform himself into one of the best in the world is the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. He takes a weakness and makes it a strength, all across the board. It’s a testament to his work ethic and his belief in himself.”

Conviction seemed to be the biggest difference between the champion and the nearly-man who left Pinehurst with his 21st top-10 finish at a major since his last victory(!). McIlroy was self-contained and largely emotionless even when things were going his way on Sunday, as if girding for the worst. As soon as he grabbed the lead on the back nine, he looked like he began playing not to lose. In the Pinehurst parking lot, six-time major champion Nick Faldo diagnosed the problem. In 1996, at 38, Faldo had a chance to steal a Masters from Greg Norman but he hadn’t contended in the cauldron of a major championship in years. “The mental demands were exhausting,” Faldo said. “On every shot I had to have these conversations with myself. ‘The wheels are falling off.’ No, they aren’t. ‘You can’t hit this shot.’ Yes, I can.‘ When I watch Rory trying to win these majors now, I know he is hearing the same voices. When he looks down at the ball, how much doubt is there inside? One percent? Five percent? It doesn’t take much to be the difference between and losing.”

The brutal denouement will certainly leave a bruise. McIlroy peeled out of Pinehurst without speaking to reporters, which was a tactical mistake. From Norman at Augusta to Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot to Tom Watson at Turnberry, the gruesome losses are leavened by the humanity of the vanquished. It won’t help McIlroy (or golf fans) if he turns to stone.

Meanwhile, on Sunday night DeChambeau was relishing his new role as the prince of Pinehurst. It was past 11 p.m. when he stood on the lawn of a stately home belonging to Bob Dedman, the owner of the Pinehurst Resort. DeChambeau was being toasted by USGA President Fred Perpall, Pinehurst President Tom Pashley and other members of golf’s ruling class. The new champ soaked it all in while wearing a perma-grin. Finally, he said his goodbyes and slid into the passenger seat of his courtesy car. I said to DeChambeau, “I feel like you’re going to enjoy this one a lot more than the first one.”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, cradling the trophy on his lap. “The fun is just beginning.”

Top Photo Caption: Bryson DeChambeau stole the show at the U.S. Open. (GETTY IMAGES/Jared C. Tilton)

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Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan spent 25 years on the golf beat for Sports Illustrated and was previously the executive editor at the Fire Pit Collective. Author of nine books, including PHIL; LIV AND LET DIE; BUD, SWEAT & TEES; and THE SWINGER.

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck

Alan Shipnuck





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      Curtis Weaver

      4 weeks ago

      Anyone notice the flaw in the green effecting rory’s putt? I think I heard the analyst describe Rory’s aim point should be left edge. I saw Rory set up out side of the left edge and the pace appeared correct. If you notice the slo-mo replay it appears the ball hit a bump on the path and pushed his ball slightly right. It definitely popped up in the air a tad. We golf fans were robbed of an epic playoff by this bump.

      Reply

      Pat Maweini

      1 month ago

      Did everyone see the story that Bryson soaks his golf balls in an epsom salt bath? He claims that helps identify the heavier parts of the ball and marks the lightest side that is floating above the water. Considering he plays a Titleist Pro V1 Left Dash, i think this was a bad look for Titleist and their “quality” as Bryson basically said its impossible to center these cores.

      Reply

      StrokerAce

      1 month ago

      I don’t understand why people don’t like Bryson.
      I do understand why they don’t like Rory.
      —-
      Bryson wasn’t wanted on the PGA tour so he decided to go with another tour that wanted him. Anyone reading this would have done the same. If you’re at a job where you don’t fit into the culture typically you go to another company.
      Don’t get me started on the LIV/Saudi connection…. there are so many parallels in life that we are all guilty of that it would be extremely ludicrous to judge him based on this.
      —–
      It was good (BAD) vs evil (RM) on Sunday.
      Fun vs Petulance
      Everyman golfer (see his YT channel) vs Country Club elite who is too good for everyone
      Happy to see that the right player won. He’s everything that is RIGHT with golf and Rory is everything that is wrong with it.

      Reply

      PHDrunkards

      1 month ago

      Mcilroy doesn’t get the support because he’s not an American. And he hasn’t done well in majors in a decade, though he has won the Tour championship a couple times in that time and his Ryder Cup record is solid. But being that he is not an American, he was never going to get the love in the US, and I think he woke up to that in the last 3 years, and it’s made him act out on it in too many ways, being pulled this way and that due to his standing on the PGA Tour player board or whatever BS that is meant to be.
      There is too much of this concept of unionisation and job protection ideology in the US, so much so that players are now putting in the voices as to how the thing is run?! It should never have been that way, the players should just stick to being players and try to win and be successful and leave it at that. If the players fail and lose their standing and drop down, they have no say, so why all this protection of those who are able to just maintain their game, in order for them to have an input on the Tour’s operations???? Ludicrous

      Reply

      Kevin

      4 weeks ago

      I feel like I’m taking crazy pills reading some of this. Amazing how winning and some good PR can change a story. Reminds of some other folks these days. Pinehurst was amazing, on that we can all agree.

      Reply

      Kevin C

      1 month ago

      I like Bryson as I think he makes golf more interesting. What other golfer studies physics in college and will try single length irons, huge grips, study long drivers, et al? I love the “traditional” side of golf, but as an engineer and hobbyist club builder I also love to tinker. I’ve always found it interesting to see what Phil was digging into and Bryson goes even deeper…..probably too deep in some cases, but that’s the beauty of it.

      I’d probably enjoy having a beer with Rory more, but hanging out with Bryson on the course might be a LOT more interesting.

      Reply

      Vincent Fort

      1 month ago

      Bryson, like Tiger Woods, is revolutionizing the game, with a physicality that has never before been seen. But now he has validated the previously shunned new technology irons and putter. I’m finally excited for golf again.

      Reply

      PHDrunkards

      1 month ago

      We are blessed in golf to have Bryson.
      And I’d hate to mix such negativity with so much of the good stuff that Bryson brings as this, but:
      We finally managed to get rid of the ungrateful sex maniac Eldrick Tont, who never thanked anybody like the way Bryson thanks people, those who came before him in the game who helped propel him to where he is and how he became who he is, never ever recognised his mother’s side’s Thai background so much so that Thai people hate him that much more, but we will be seeing the back of Eldrick soon enough!!!
      We are blessed to have Bryson in the game of golf. The future is bright for golf. His infectious positivity will help grow the game to the max! Long LIV!

      Reply

      PHDrunkards

      1 month ago

      Well, he’s set for 5 with this in most, and then if he wins the Masters then he’ll be there until he retires, so that’ll set him for life

      Reply

      Tim Secor

      1 month ago

      this is the biggest choke in US Open history and the biggest choke in MAJOR HISTORY by McIlroy. He may not ever recover from this. The fact he left the course without congratulating Bryson and without facing the media was low class and not a good look for the PGA darling.

      He WAS my fav golfer until yesterday. His putter has always been his downfall and it showed its ugly face once again.

      Reply

      Marty

      1 month ago

      Bryson is the best player in the world right now. In the last three majors, Bryson average finish is 3 and his average score to par is -9.3. Scottie is 16.7 and -5.3; respectively. Next closest to Bryson is Xander at 5.5 and -7.7. This just shows what a farce the OWGR truly is.

      Reply

      Jason S

      1 month ago

      There’s no doubt Bryson has changed dramatically over the past few years. Maybe it’s the social media aspect, or maybe it’s being on LIV and having a lot more golfing freedom. Whatever it might be, he’s certainly not the brash, unlikeable guy he used to be. His game is foreign to most of us and maybe that’s why so many don’t like him. But over the past 2 majors, my opinion of his has changed. I was not a fan before. Now, although not a big fan of his, I’m warming up to him more than I thought I ever would. When he went to find Xander after the final putt at Valhalla, that was a shift for me and probably many of us. Compare that to Rory just bailing after the last putt yesterday. Classy, meet classless. Good for Bryson.

      Reply

      Alex

      1 month ago

      I’d like him to sit down and chat with the 9/11 families. I don’t expect him to quit LIV, but listen to their concerns. He now has a megaphone for change– maybe he can do some good there.

      Reply

      Yummy

      1 month ago

      Why don’t you sit down and chat with the Palestinian and Jewish families, families in Iraq and Iran, families in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, families of former slaves in the South of America, you might get more done if you join Bryson in helping unite the game of golf for the world and help him expand the game around the world as that is what he is trying to do.
      Veiling your deep down hate with such a snide comment gets you nowhere.
      Go listen to John Lennon and study his words, he said ALL YOU IS NEED LOVE
      😝

      Mark

      1 month ago

      Hopefully he has changed. Met him twice at corporate outings. He was a total @ss and very condescending. Also sat through a clinic he gave. During his question and answer session he couldn’t have been more arrogant and downright rude to everyone. Reminded me of my times around Phil. Camera on he was mr. nice guy and one of the people. Camera off you could see how much disdain he actually had for people.

      Reply

      Kevin S

      1 month ago

      Phil? Wow, I (and others I know) have had the EXACT opposite experience, with the cameras off. Couldnt have been more nice, down to earth… That is the problem with being a celebrity. You have one bad-day or one bad comment and suddenly there are fans telling everyone you know what a jerk you are.

      Reply

      Ross

      1 month ago

      That Mark sounds like Braandel Chamblee, lol.

      Will

      1 month ago

      Bryson’s out there playing with child-sized clubs for laughs, and hanging out with Bob Does Sports and other YouTube golfers, and it only seems to make him better. Maybe Rory should try having some fun too?

      Reply

      PHDrunkards

      1 month ago

      He was planning on having fun with Amanda’s fun bags but that all fell through as well rofl

      Reply

      CK

      1 month ago

      It was all about spite for him. Sports in general is becoming unbearable to watch. And that communist, Mike Tirico. Don’t get me started. The coverage was awful. NBC has always sucked and although they have added some great people their politics just seep in too much.

      Reply

      PHDrunkards

      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment on Tirico! Yup, totally fascist BS commentary from the fascists at NBC who feed him the crap and the things he’s allowed to say. Just the worst TV network in the whole wide world, they are the leaders of disinformation and snide tactics it’s no wonder so many Americans are totally LEFT clueless and brainwashed

      Reply

      Vito

      1 month ago

      Uh, is he a Fascist or a Communist? Hard to be both at the same time.

      Mike

      1 month ago

      The most exciting & fun-to-watch person in golf. Period. Guess we’ll be seeing him in all the Majors for at least the next 5-10 years (depending on the automatic exemptions).

      Reply

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